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Hatch Communications
Hatch Communications

Thought Leadership

Sport Sponsorship & PR: What to Expect from 2023

by Matt Peden

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Sport in 2022. It feels like it’s been the year of “big comps”. It’s been absolutely bonkers, let’s be honest.

In the UK, we’ve seen the huge successes of global tournaments with the UEFA Women’s Euros, the Commonwealth Games, the Rugby League World Cup and the World Gymnastics Championships in what has been a bumper year for home-based competitions.

Further afield, we started the year with the Winter Olympics and the Paralympics in Beijing followed by men’s and women’s Cricket World Cups, an athletics World Championship, a women’s Rugby World Cup and then to finish the year, a somewhat controversial FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Yep – we’re all knackered. A festive break seems well-earned and much-needed. But it’s a year to be remembered, a year to be celebrated, yet from a sponsorship perspective, one of the most challenging years in memory to get real brand cut-through.

2023 however looks like the opposite.

It’s now a time to reflect and evaluate following Covid and a hectic year. The industry is likely to start Q1 with brands getting a deeper understanding of what has worked, what hasn’t, and evaluating where their business sits vs the economy – which as we all know is at its most turbulent and unpredictable best.

So, what can we look out for in the world of sport sponsorship in 2023? Here are the Hatch five predictions:

Ethics

Ethics has always been at the forefront of sponsorship debate but 2023 might see changes to industries that have been in the spotlight for a while.

Betting is still the main supplier for a lot of clubs and associations in the sporting landscape – a heavily relied upon revenue driver. Last season, nine of the 20 EPL teams’ male shirt sponsors were in the gambling industry.

Could the 2023/24 season by the time for a change? We’ve seen changes in advertising across TV here in the UK and certain sports have put bans on industries such as alcohol, tobacco and gambling being involved in shirt sponsorships.

Big changes could be coming in terms of regulations and approvals across gambling and alcohol brands in sport

We feel like we’re at a tipping point here and we wouldn’t be surprised if one of the larger rights holders in the UK makes a real stance in 2023 that changes the industry landscape.

Gambling is just one industry. Crypto and NFTs within sport – we need the Christmas break before diving into this!

But the point is, this could be a huge opportunity for brands in other sectors to step up into the spotlight.

Women’s Sport

2022 has been a huge driver for women’s sports – finally. We’ve been lucky enough to work on multiple projects supporting women’s sport across football, cricket and rugby league this year.

It’s had all the right attention, all the right PR and all the right characters. Records have been broken and we believe that trend will continue in 2023.

2022 has been a huge year for women’s sport, and we expect (and hope) this to be the catalyst for continued growth in 2023

In football, the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup will be co-hosted in Australia and New Zealand where already there is positive noise around attendance, broadcasting and media coverage. The launch of World Rugby’s WXV tournament is one to keep an eye on – lots of possibilities and a chance to “revolutionise the women’s international rugby landscape”.

The good news for brands is that women’s sport is still seen as a blank piece of paper in terms of what can be achieved, so bespoke contracts and new rights that men’s sport simply can’t adapt to will give new opportunities and ultimately the chance to talk to new audiences.

Inclusivity

Ever since 2012 and the Paralympic Games, we’ve felt that inclusivity within sport has been steadily growing.

The Rugby League World Cup (yes, a previous client so we do have a bias) really brought inclusivity in sport to the forefront this year with all three tournaments (men’s, women’s, and wheelchair) being played at the same time, with equal participation fees provided across each tournament. The breakaway success was the Wheelchair tournament which quite literally blew people away when they saw it – which we always knew they would.

The Rugby League World Cup 2021 (2022) saw the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments all take place simultaneously for the first time

Once inclusive sports are given the platform to succeed, like being shown on free-to-view TV, the general public seem to react more positively.

From a brand perspective, I expect to see more and more brands getting involved in inclusive, disabled and para sports in 2023 and aligning their business values to such sports and clubs/teams/individuals – storytelling opportunities are endless.

Digital

Surely this has been in every prediction for any industry for the last 20 years, but sport sponsorship will continue to rely on digital platforms for brand/sponsor growth.

Match day experiences in particular are continuing to improve at speed and innovations are now starting to come through into different sports. That, in turn, will create more sponsorship opportunities.

Digital growth, and we appreciate that is very broad, will continue to shape the sporting landscape. But importantly within sponsorship, it allows us all to be more focused, more targeted and more KPI driven which can only be a good thing.

Following the pandemic, fans are used to and now expect to be constantly entertained with content from teams and organisations, showing behind-the-scenes action, bringing talent personalities to life and offering brands a whole host of opportunities.

Storytelling

Once upon a time….there was a land with no social media and no daily video feeds. Not anymore – we’re way past that.

But storytelling is an art form. It’s a skill, and sporting stories do pretty much everything to a fan, whether that’s make you smile, laugh, cry, angry or proud, stories will always be pivotal. However, ways and means of telling stories will continue to evolve, improve and diversify – 2023 will give brands the chance and the headspace to bring their story to life. Nivea do this really well with Liverpool FC for example.

It’s now time to lie in a dark room with lots of mince pies, lots of booze and the darts on the tele. 2022, it’s been a blast – bring on 2023.

Sport in 2022. It feels like it’s been the year of “big comps”. It’s been absolutely bonkers, let’s be honest.

In the UK, we’ve seen the huge successes of global tournaments with the UEFA Women’s Euros, the Commonwealth Games, the Rugby League World Cup and the World Gymnastics Championships in what has been a bumper year for home-based competitions.

Further afield, we started the year with the Winter Olympics and the Paralympics in Beijing followed by men’s and women’s Cricket World Cups, an athletics World Championship, a women’s Rugby World Cup and then to finish the year, a somewhat controversial FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Yep – we’re all knackered. A festive break seems well-earned and much-needed. But it’s a year to be remembered, a year to be celebrated, yet from a sponsorship perspective, one of the most challenging years in memory to get real brand cut-through.

2023 however looks like the opposite.

It’s now a time to reflect and evaluate following Covid and a hectic year. The industry is likely to start Q1 with brands getting a deeper understanding of what has worked, what hasn’t, and evaluating where their business sits vs the economy – which as we all know is at its most turbulent and unpredictable best.

So, what can we look out for in the world of sport sponsorship in 2023? Here are the Hatch five predictions:

Ethics

Ethics has always been at the forefront of sponsorship debate but 2023 might see changes to industries that have been in the spotlight for a while.

Betting is still the main supplier for a lot of clubs and associations in the sporting landscape – a heavily relied upon revenue driver. Last season, nine of the 20 EPL teams’ male shirt sponsors were in the gambling industry.

Could the 2023/24 season by the time for a change? We’ve seen changes in advertising across TV here in the UK and certain sports have put bans on industries such as alcohol, tobacco and gambling being involved in shirt sponsorships.

Big changes could be coming in terms of regulations and approvals across gambling and alcohol brands in sport

We feel like we’re at a tipping point here and we wouldn’t be surprised if one of the larger rights holders in the UK makes a real stance in 2023 that changes the industry landscape.

Gambling is just one industry. Crypto and NFTs within sport – we need the Christmas break before diving into this!

But the point is, this could be a huge opportunity for brands in other sectors to step up into the spotlight.

Women’s Sport

2022 has been a huge driver for women’s sports – finally. We’ve been lucky enough to work on multiple projects supporting women’s sport across football, cricket and rugby league this year.

It’s had all the right attention, all the right PR and all the right characters. Records have been broken and we believe that trend will continue in 2023.

2022 has been a huge year for women’s sport, and we expect (and hope) this to be the catalyst for continued growth in 2023

In football, the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup will be co-hosted in Australia and New Zealand where already there is positive noise around attendance, broadcasting and media coverage. The launch of World Rugby’s WXV tournament is one to keep an eye on – lots of possibilities and a chance to “revolutionise the women’s international rugby landscape”.

The good news for brands is that women’s sport is still seen as a blank piece of paper in terms of what can be achieved, so bespoke contracts and new rights that men’s sport simply can’t adapt to will give new opportunities and ultimately the chance to talk to new audiences.

Inclusivity

Ever since 2012 and the Paralympic Games, we’ve felt that inclusivity within sport has been steadily growing.

The Rugby League World Cup (yes, a previous client so we do have a bias) really brought inclusivity in sport to the forefront this year with all three tournaments (men’s, women’s, and wheelchair) being played at the same time, with equal participation fees provided across each tournament. The breakaway success was the Wheelchair tournament which quite literally blew people away when they saw it – which we always knew they would.

The Rugby League World Cup 2021 (2022) saw the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments all take place simultaneously for the first time

Once inclusive sports are given the platform to succeed, like being shown on free-to-view TV, the general public seem to react more positively.

From a brand perspective, I expect to see more and more brands getting involved in inclusive, disabled and para sports in 2023 and aligning their business values to such sports and clubs/teams/individuals – storytelling opportunities are endless.

Digital

Surely this has been in every prediction for any industry for the last 20 years, but sport sponsorship will continue to rely on digital platforms for brand/sponsor growth.

Match day experiences in particular are continuing to improve at speed and innovations are now starting to come through into different sports. That, in turn, will create more sponsorship opportunities.

Digital growth, and we appreciate that is very broad, will continue to shape the sporting landscape. But importantly within sponsorship, it allows us all to be more focused, more targeted and more KPI driven which can only be a good thing.

Following the pandemic, fans are used to and now expect to be constantly entertained with content from teams and organisations, showing behind-the-scenes action, bringing talent personalities to life and offering brands a whole host of opportunities.

Storytelling

Once upon a time….there was a land with no social media and no daily video feeds. Not anymore – we’re way past that.

But storytelling is an art form. It’s a skill, and sporting stories do pretty much everything to a fan, whether that’s make you smile, laugh, cry, angry or proud, stories will always be pivotal. However, ways and means of telling stories will continue to evolve, improve and diversify – 2023 will give brands the chance and the headspace to bring their story to life. Nivea do this really well with Liverpool FC for example.

It’s now time to lie in a dark room with lots of mince pies, lots of booze and the darts on the tele. 2022, it’s been a blast – bring on 2023.

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